A few words about Suicide Squad and the Rotten Tomatoes protest

The Suicide Squad film has been out a few days now and it is getting pummelled by critics left, right and centre. Now I’ve not seen the film as yet but critical reaction is poor not just in your mainstream media critics but amongst fans, not to mention even comic creators like David Leach who’ve given it some wretched reviews. Yesterday I attended the Bristol Comics Expo where current Suicide Squad writer Rob Williams was in attendance to crowds of enthusiastic cosplayers and fans who seemed to be enjoying the characters. As you’d image there were one or two Harley Quinn’s there, the odd Deadshot and I think I saw a Jared Leto Joker, poor sod.

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Anyhow, the reaction to Suicide Squad has prompted one fan to launch a campaign to get film review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes, where the film as I write this has a ”Fresh’ rating of 26%. Not as bad as Kevin Spacey’s cat-based comedy Nine Lives which has a rating of only 5%.

Leaving aside the fact an aggregator site isn’t going to tell you the full picture, or that moaning that lots of critics dislike a film which was marketed brilliantly, but seems to have failed to deliver on the promise of the trailers.

This has launched a campaign to stop Rotten Tomatoes, well, a Twitter account and some sad-cases online but as this rather good Slate article points out

Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts, but in the cultural arena as in the political world, it’s increasingly easy to inhabit a closed system where truth and facts need never come into direct contact. These systems develop their own vocabularies and their own articles of faith—Marvel pays critics to pan DC movies; Islam is an ideology, not a religion — and the absence of supporting evidence is proof of the conspiracy’s breadth.

The problem lies in that fans do inhabit a closed system, so they’re not aware of either film or comics as a medium or art form, but instead ‘love the characters’, a line I hear waaaay too many people say. It moves you from objectively liking something based upon the end result but because you say, really like Harley Quinn’s arse, you can’t objectively look at critical opinion (and I’m not talking about people say ‘THAT SUCKS DUDE!!‘ on their blogs, but actual criticism) if you only want to see live action versions of characters you like, or think look cool or are masturbatory aids.

A friend of mine  said its impossible to criticise a film without having seen films like Battleship Potemkin or Nosferatu so you understand where the grammar of cinema comes from. A point I’ve made is that it’s impossible to criticise comics without understanding comics as a medium, because it isn’t film. It has its own entirely different grammar, and the idea of the ‘cinematic comic’ is just a storyboard. The reason for this is that it gives you a grounding so it helps you understand film or comics or whatever it is you’re watching, or even criticising. Mixed in with a habit of not just taking in one genre of entiertainment, so if all you’re doing is watching genre films then you only rate art by the art you consume. If all you’re doing is getting upset when Suicide Squad predictably gets a critical pumping you’re probably not using the same critical references of other people.

In short, if your cinematic diet is Marvel movies and summer blockbusters, you’re not going to appreciate why a critic who may be schooled in the language of film dislikes a film you want desperately to succeed because it has a kewl trailer. See this piece from Flickering Myth as an example of what I mean and the insane binary point it tries to make.

Slate sums things up well…

There are innumerable places on the web for fans with a pre-existing love of the comic books to talk to each other about Suicide Squad, but that’s not good enough: The “Crush the Tomato” faction wants to live in a world where other opinions don’t exist, or at least they don’t have to hear about them. They’ve inherited a once-marginalized subculture’s grudges despite the fact that most of them aren’t old enough to remember a time when comics were “just for kids.” It doesn’t matter that they effectively control the culture: Any threat to their dominance, be it a negativeSuicide Squad review or a female Ghostbuster, has to be met with maximum force, repelled like an unwanted invader. It’s not that the system is rigged: It’s that it isn’t rigged for them.

Criticism serves a purpose which is to hopefully shine a light on something you weren’t aware of, challenge your opinion, sometimes educate you, and yes, sometimes even endorse your love or dislike for something. But in 2016 if all you’re doing when faced with negative critical reactions is run crying onto the internet throwing around threats of boycotts because others don’t agree with you, then frankly, you’re a child.

I’m sure I’ll see Suicide Squad in due time. I may even like it more than Batman versus Superman, but I’ll draw my own opinion of it based upon what’s on the screen, not because I like the characters or how Harley Quinn makes my pants feel tight…

What I thought of Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1

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Trying to find a gem with DC’s Rebirth comics is like sticking your hand into a massive bucket of broken glass to pull out a diamond. As the Suicide Squad film arrives in cinemas this week to waves of effluence from critics, DC have launched their Rebirth of Suicide Squad this week and I stick my hand into that bucket of broken glass to see whether I pull out a diamond or not.

The problem here is that Rebirth is supposed to bring back the ‘more hopeful, brighter DC Universe’, yet with a title like Suicide Squad precludes a certain amount of dark so writer Rob Williams and artist Philip Tan have a precarious balancing act to achieve here. Now I liked the 1980’s John Ostrander run on this title a lot, and he managed to walk the tightrope well by throwing in light and shade, plus the title then was used to clean out some Z-List villains. This iteration of the Squad are backed up by Big Screen counterparts, plus they’re not going to kill off moneyspinners like Harley Quinn and Deadshot so what does this Rebirth actually do?

Well, it throws in an idealised Obama who starts the issue trying to kick Amanda Waller out on her arse but is ended up being convinced of the need of Task Force X, the Suicide Squad not to mention the need for someone to keep the Squad in line. That person being Rick Flag.

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It’s actually a pretty good start. There’s nice shades of grey which carries on during the recruitment of Rick Flag, and this revamped Squad’s first mission to save a McGuffin from bad guys.

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Surprisingly to me, Suicide Squad: Rebirth isn’t a bad comic, I’d even venture as far as saying I liked it. Yes, it is a bit simplistic, plus Philip Tan’s sub-Jim Lee style (Lee is scheduled to be regular penciller in future issues) grates a tad, but Williams turns in a very good reboot of a team with a complex history so you could pick this up having never read an issue before and get the concept right away.

So I’m pulling my hand out that big bucket of broken glass not with a diamond perhaps, but something worth looking at.

DC Comics films cheer up, Kong: Skull Island made me wet my pants and The Walking Dead cast laugh at us because of Brexit

San Diego Comic Con hit its Big Day yesterday with the infamous Hall H throwing out big presentations one after another. This is a day where people queue for up to a day beforehand to get in sleeping in each others sweat and filth in order to be within 200 metres of their heroes. If they’re lucky of course.

First up was Warner Brothers who came out like an alcoholic who’s just went clean and who wants to tell you about it. One of the rightful criticisms of Warner’s DC Comics films is they’re too dark and miserable to the point where Batman Versus Superman ended up being a masochistic exercise in misery rather than anything fun. So first up, Wonder Woman.

It looks alright, the WW1 setting is odd because that was a much more complex war to portray on screen than WW2 because you can’t just depict a complex war based upon imperialism as easily as Goodies killing Nazis. Still is does give it a different look though at some point even the most rabid fan has to deal with the fact Gal Gadot can’t act.

Next up; Justice League.

There’s more fun in the nearly three minute trailer than the entire of the aforementioned Batman Versus Superman, plus Man of Steel combined. That doesn’t make a great film though but this has got such a low starting point in terms of expectations a light, fun superhero film would be a masterpiece.

As for Suicide Squad..

I dunno, it looks fun but it also looks as if a committee of accountants have poured over every Marvel film of the last decade and come up with a film.

The main event for a Giant Monster fan like myself is Kong: Skull Island.

Godzilla was alright but far too dull in places. The Peter Jackson King Kong remake was overlong and tedious, but this promises less of a boring time at the cinema which a giant monster film shouldn’t be.

There were other film Warner Brothers presented but J.K Rowling can fuck off.

Marvel also produced loads of stuff but unlike Warners they didn’t release them directly online and that might keep the thousands of smelly, sweaty fans in Hall H happy, but it doesn’t stop piracy. Ah well, here’s the Doctor Strange trailer with Benedict Cumberbatch’s iffy American accent.

One of the things that’s clear is that the big media companies have honed how they use San Diego to their benefit which benefits those us sat on our arses thousands of miles away, but perhaps make the experience of those actually there a bit less special. However sticking most of the big panels online more or less within 24 hours of them happening means we can get to see things like the cast of The Walking Dead (well, a couple of them) taking the piss out of the UK because of Brexit.

Even people whose job is playing someone in a post apocalyptic world where mindless zombies eat people thinks Brexit is a bad idea…

So with that in mind I’m off to watch the Aliens 30th anniversary panel without smelling like a tramps old socks.